The 30th edition of the Calvin Symposium on Worship will bring some well-known plenary speakers to Grand Rapids. But big names are not the focus of the annual event, sponsored by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (CICW) and the Center for Excellence in Preaching.
Instead what symposium organizers hope for each year is an event that will provide both practical tips for worship and a larger vision of God’s work in the world.
The three-day event, to be held Jan. 26-28, 2017, will bring to the campuses of Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary a wide variety of speakers and conference attendees. This year’s conference will likely see 1,500-plus attendees, about half of whom will be attending Symposium for the first time. That number likely will include more than 100 attendees who will come from outside the U.S., representing 30-plus countries around the world.
And in addition to a broader geographic and cultural reach, the event is also drawing from an ever-wider age range with 2017 expected to draw more than 200 college and high school students who will come from across North America.
None of that variety is an accident says John D. Witvliet, director of the CICW and a member of the first planning committee in 1988 as a Calvin student.
“Some conferences are designed for churches that come from similar contexts,” he says. “This one is designed for leaders from a wide variety of contexts to learn from each other.”
His colleague Kristen Verhulst, associate to the director and program manager at the CICW, has been working on the 2017 Symposium almost since the 2016 edition ended. She too says the variety of the event is intentional.
“The conference brings together a wide audience of artists, musicians, pastors, scholars, students, worship leaders and planners,” she says, “and other interested worshipers. People come from around the world for a time of fellowship, worship and learning together, seeking to develop their gifts, encourage each other and renew their commitment to the full ministry of the church.”
Attendees quickly pick up each year on the goals for the conference.
After the 2016 Symposium one attendee wrote: “Old school note-taking during sermons and workshops helps me listen. I’m bringing home 32 pages of scrawled pages from Worship Symposium! Good stuff! The Holy Spirit has been pouring in to me through the presenters!”
Another said simply: “The meeting conveys a profound sense of encountering the Kingdom of Heaven in person for the first time, being surrounded by people from everywhere and with every kind of gift, all seeking God in deed as well as word.”
From its humble beginnings in 1988, Symposium has grown to an event that now stretches over three full days with more than 100 seminars, workshops, interactive sessions and plenary addresses, plus numerous worship services. Verhulst notes that the 2017 conference program features basic, perennial themes such as the Trinitarian nature of worship, vibrant congregational song, preaching, healthy leadership practices as well as growing areas of interest such as universal design for worship, singing bilingually, faith, worship and work and more.
The worship service theme will be timely: “The Faithful Witness: Being Christ’s Church in an Apocalyptic World.”
Says Scott Hoezee, director of the Center for Excellence in Preaching: “Throughout our world in recent years, Christians along with everyone else have been convulsed by terrorism, martyrdom, persecution and political upheavals of many varieties. Like other key moments in history, these are days when the Church needs to rely on the foundations of the faith and on that utter certainty that Christ really is the First and the Last whose loving hands hold together God’s people in heaven and on earth. The Bible’s closing book of Revelation is filled with majesty and mystery. But weaving throughout is the golden thread that God is in charge over even the most tumultuous of earthly events.”
The Symposium services will all be based on the biblical book of Revelation, including:
*Revelation 1:1-8 (9-20): The Faithful Witness Revealed: Luke Powery preaching
*Revelation 4-5: The Songs in the Heavenly Throne Room: Trygve Johnson preaching
*Revelation 7:9-17: The Great Multitude of God’s People: Josiah Chung preaching
*Revelation 21:1-8, 22-27: The New Heaven and Earth: Karen Campbell preaching
*Revelation 22:1-5: The River of Life: Maria Cornou preaching in a bilingual (Spanish-English) communion service
The plenary addresses in 2017 will be by Sandra Van Opstal and N.T. (Tom) Wright.
For more details see worship.calvin.edu/symposium